Measure of a Man: From Auschwitz Survivor to Presidents' Tailor

Measure of a Man: From Auschwitz Survivor to Presidents' Tailor

by Martin Greenfield, Wynton Hall


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He's been called "America's greatest living tailor" and "the most interesting man in the world." Now, for the first time, Holocaust survivor Martin Greenfield tells his incredible life story. Taken from his Czechoslovakian home at age fifteen and transported to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz with his family, Greenfield came face to face with "Angel of Death" Dr. Joseph Mengele and was divided forever from his parents, sisters, and baby brother.

In haunting, powerful prose, Greenfield remembers his desperation and fear as a teenager alone in the death camp—and how an SS soldier's shirt dramatically altered the course of his life. He learned how to sew; and when he began wearing the shirt under his prisoner uniform, he learned that clothes possess great power and could even help save his life.

Measure of a Man is the story of a man who suffered unimaginable horror and emerged with a dream of success. From sweeping floors at a New York clothing factory to founding America’s premier custom suit company, Greenfield built a fashion empire. Now 86 years old and working with his sons, Greenfield has dressed the famous and powerful of D.C. and Hollywood, including Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, celebrities Paul Newman, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jimmy Fallon, and the stars of Martin Scorsese's films.

Written with soul-baring honesty and, at times, a wry sense of humor, Measure of a Man is a memoir unlike any other—one that will inspire hope and renew faith in the resilience of man.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781621575153
Publisher: Regnery History
Publication date: 08/22/2016
Pages: 250
Sales rank: 345,794
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

MARTIN GREENFIELD was born in the village of Pavlovo, Czechoslovakia, in 1928. The only member of his family to survive the Holocaust, he made his way to the United States in 1947. He and his sons run Martin Greenfield Clothiers in Brooklyn, New York, the leading American maker of hand-tailored menswear. The tailor to the world's most powerful and influential men, Greenfield lives on Long Island with his wife, Arlene.

WYNTON HALL is the owner of Wynton Hall & Co., a celebrity ghostwriting agency responsible for several New York Times bestsellers. The author or collaborator of sixteen books, Hall’s published work has appeared in the New York Times , USA Today , San Francisco Chronicle , Daily Beast , Breitbart , Politico , and several others. Hall lives with his wife and daughters in Florida.

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter Two: Inside Auschwitz

Day and night the ovens burned. The smoke spewed up from the soaring brick chimney and belched the vaporous remnants of corpses into the air. At night you could see the flames spitting against the blackened sky. Still, no one in the camps talked to me about the crematoria. Whether that was because I was just a boy or because I no longer had a father by my side to speak piercing truths to me, I do not know. But I could smell that something was horribly wrong.

After morning roll call, we were given something approximating black coffee. To be sick or weak was dangerous, so no matter how rancid the gruel or vile the smell, I forced myself to eat. The afternoon slop was usually some sort of soup that frequently had human hair, trash, or dead insects floating in it. Sundown brought black bread mixed with sawdust. Soup made you skinny. Bread made strength. So I ate as much bread as I could scavenge and always tried to cover my wounds with my clothes.

My labor assignment in the laundry lasted several days before I was moved to the sorting room, which housed the confiscated wares of newly arrived prisoners. The space was filled with fifty or so prisoners combing and sifting mountains of clothes, shoes, and other possessions. Sometimes a prisoner stumbled upon a hidden morsel of food folded inside a bag or tucked inside a coat pocket. Prisoners caught trying to sneak a bite were promptly whipped by a kapo, who often smuggled the food or ate it himself.

Between the rummaging and sorting I peeked over and around piles every chance I got in the hopes of spotting a family member. That’s all I wanted: one glimpse, a single fleeting confirmation they were still alive. But it never came. Looking back now I realize that false, cruel wish, like an invisible ladder whose rungs materialized based on hope, compelled me to reach for survival.

The weeks passed and the piles got smaller and smaller until transports of new prisoners slowed to a trickle. The Nazis reassigned me to the bricklaying teams. Allied bombs were busting up brick buildings everywhere, so our services were in high demand. I knew nothing about masonry. A prisoner who served as a team leader stuck a trowel in my one hand and a mortar bucket in the other before walking me to a block of bricks. There I learned the finer points of bricklaying before being put to work.

The work was hard and the days were long, and my wire-thin teenage frame did its best to keep up with the older, stronger men. For some reason, slathering and smoothing the mortar across the faces of the bricks made my thoughts float to Pavlovo and brought back scenes of Grandma Geitel icing freshly baked cakes. Before long I had perfected my ability to detach my mind from my physical form, and my body sped up as my thoughts slowed down.

Even so, no matter how hard we worked, our captors would slay prisoners without provocation.

Killings were frequent and random. One day a boy from my block and I were tasked with building a brick wall. We started just after morning line up. By late afternoon we had completed a good stretch of the wall and felt a certain pride in our accomplishment. We stacked the bricks higher and higher until it stood some five or six feet tall. We talked while working to unclench our minds. A single gunshot rang out, but I didn’t think much of it. The crack of rifle fire and the spraying of machineguns were common, so I kept stacking and talking. I asked the boy a question and got no reply.

I asked again.


I swiveled my head in his direction. Several yards away, the boy lay motionless, facedown in the dirt inside an expanding pool of blood. I later learned a Nazi had used the boy for target practice.

At home in Pavlovo—and in most civilizations—a clear moral order structured our daily lives. Hard work, justice, fairness, integrity—these virtues produced predictable fruits. But not in the concentration camps. The Germans killed for any reason or none at all. It was futile to try to discern their logic, because there was none. If a Nazi was angry, he might kill you. If a Nazi was happy, he might kill you. It made no difference.

The dehumanizing randomness of the murders suffocated my sense of hope, just as Hitler and his henchmen had intended. What appeared random was, in fact, not random at all. It was a systematic psychological lynching, a strangling of the human heart’s need to believe in the rewards of goodness, a snapping of the moral hinge on which humanity swings. Soon, and much to my shame, I became anesthetized to death, numb to depravity. Some primal survival switch inside me had been temporarily flicked on that allowed me to submerge the emotions generated by the evil scorching my eyes.

I witnessed dozens of shootings and helped carry scores of corpses. Sometimes a dead body would be intact and appear to be sleeping. Other times a bullet would rip through a prisoner spilling out organs. Or shatter a skull, exposing chunks of brain. But as the days passed, no matter its condition, a body soon became just a body, a sallow, bloodless, gangling object that must be lugged, heaved atop a pile, or dropped in a hole.

At fifteen, I had become an undertaker.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Meeting Mengele 1

Chapter 2 Inside Auschwitz 17

Chapter 3 The Death March 31

Chapter 4 Ike Arrives 45

Chapter 5 A Time to Kill 59

Chapter 6 Coming to America 79

Chapter 7 GGG 97

Chapter 8 The Beautiful People 123

Chapter 9 The Tailors' Tailor 151

Chapter 10 Dressing Presidents and Politicians 175

Chapter 11 Suit Maker to the Stars 199

Chapter 12 Bar Mitzvah at Eighty 217

Acknowledgments 221

Index 227

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